, 19 tweets, 5 min read Read on Twitter
There’s actually a lot more going on here with regards to why some people are unhappy. Most of you who follow me know how I feel about mobile gaming & microtransactions, and that it’s part of a bigger industry trend that has some people (rightfully, IMO) concerned.
Considering I once wrote articles with naive titles like “In defense of F2P games” and made IGN videos like “How to use (game)’s cash shop”, I have a bit of a unique perspective on this issue. Because I was there for the beginning of F2P, & the evolution of pay-to-play mechanics.
So, a bit of a mobile gaming history lesson for the new folks.

10 years ago, a marketing company decided to make a mobile game. They’d just made a “hot or not” widget for MySpace, and wanted to branch out to capture the mobile market.

The company rebranded as Machine Zone.
The difference was, they didn’t want to make a “good” game. They wanted something that would be top-grossing on the mobile charts for a long time, by exploiting social features of mobile gaming.

Check out this old quote from Machine Zone’s CEO.
Their goal wasn’t player experience, it was “retention”.

So, the company hired a small army of behavioral psychologists & marketing experts to help craft a game with the highest possible profits & player retention at a low operating cost to MZ.

The result was Game of War.
Have you *seen* this game? The graphics are worse than old Dreamcast ports. The graphics are low-res, ugly with minimal animations.

BUT. The pay-to-play progression & blatant player financial exploitation was an act of malevolent brilliance.
I could speak about this in depth, but I’ll try to summarize:

The game used innovative (for its time) translation, allowing players from any country to chat & have their words auto-translated.

It heavily rewarded “loyalty” players who publicly defended its payment practices.
By essentially making the game a miniature social network in which players needed to convince each other to spend money so they could all “win”, much of the retention was done by manipulation of the community itself.
It used casino-like progressions on the microtransactions. A $5 box became $10, then $50, then $100. While the game animation & graphics were poor, the animations for the promotional “upgrades” were bright, colorful and responsive to the touchscreen.
Purchases were rewarded by “fixing” annoying time sink game issues. Essentially, they released a broken game, and you could pay to make it less broken/less annoying.

With how bad I’m making it sound, how effective do you think this game was at “player retention”?
It was the top-grossing (highest profit) game on the mobile market for YEARS. Top players ended up spending $30,000 monthly to keep up their accounts. Mid-range players needed to spend $1000 monthly, or risk getting kicked out of their alliance or raid teams.
One guy stole ONE MILLION DOLLARS to spend on Game of War. The game makes it incredibly easy to justify purchases, because it uses the gambler's fallacy of "just one more round, and I'll be done, I swear."

Alright, you've stayed w/me this far. So, how does this relate to the #Diablo Immortal internet firestorm?

Well, though big spenders hadn't given up on Game of War nearly a decade later, Machine Zone decided to move resources over to a new partnership.

With Square Enix.
The resulting game was Final Fantasy: Empires, which used the EXACT same pay-to-win progression & player manipulation - but with Final Fantasy themes, characters and settings.

And the cycle started again. Players were dumping thousands of dollars per month into this game.
Now, as an outside company, imagine watching MZ's success at making a low-cost, low-quality game that basically prints money. Even though player experience is poor - using the same tactics as MZ, you can make a community that essentially does the job of "player retention" for you
And then imagine watching a company like Square Enix put Final Fantasy fan-favorite characters on the altar of Machine Zone's exploitive pay-to-win microtransactions - and get VASTLY rewarded for it.

I don't think it's alarmist to follow the progression of where this leads.
I don't really expect this thread to gain much traction.

I rant about lootboxes a lot, but since the issue is complex (you need to know the history), it's hard for many to get *why* the microtransaction trend is worrying, and that there are legit concerns about #DIablo Immortal.
Addendum: During the 2 years that Game of War was the top-grossing game on the mobile market, players were handing over $1 million+ dollars PER DAY.

To a low-res mobile game.

Now tell me that MZ’s exploitive & aggressive monetization strategies won’t appeal to other companies.
Since some have asked:

I'm not going to talk about my personal interactions w/MZ at this time. Suffice it to say that I had enough experience w/profit generating tactics used in mobile gaming to make me VERY cautious about any franchise that moves over to mobile. #diabloimmortal
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